Dr. Shelly Gruenig, the executive director of R4 Creating, will watch her dream of opening the STEAM Center for Excellence come true on Wednesday.

Gruenig has been working for years to turn R4 Creating  into a center for STEAM activities with workshops, competition space, warehouse space, performing space for performing arts and robotics.

That work has paid off with the opening of the STEAM Center of Excellence in Rio Rancho. Gruenig partnered with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and the Encantado Foundation to open the center, which will be located at R4 Creating and will include state-of-the-art STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) educational products, technology, furniture and more.

The group will celebrate the opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and community celebration from 2-3 p.m. From 3-4 p.m., there will be a STEAM expo with younger students interacting with STEAM products, while older students provide demonstrations with robotics.

Gruenig founded R4, originally known as the Rio Rancho Robo Runners, in 2005 and has been offering championship STEM/STEAM programming in Sandoval County at the career training center at 4311 Sara Road, Suite 107. She is focused on programs to build the young STEM/STEAM workforce, support educators with emerging technologies and to provide thought leadership in order to link industry with their future workforce. Now, she wants to expand to reach and teach even more children with a center in Rio Rancho that holds more students and technology.

R4 Creating, which has won multiple championships and awards, works to connect STEAM educators with the necessary resources to prepare students ages 6-18 to enter the STEAM Workforce Pipeline. R4 promotes the growth of STEAM education and enrichment through its robotics teams and a Robotics Leadership Academy. Classes cost $175 per semester, but Gruenig said no child has ever been turned away from the program. She works tirelessly to raise money to make sure any student who wants it has access to the lessons learned at R4.

“I say it’s like at the intersection of where fun and learning collide. Because it is that right?” Gruenig said. “It also it just takes more resources. We’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of really great volunteers over the years. Because it takes a whole staff of volunteers to supervise, make sure everybody’s safe, especially around the machines, and not only just say fingers and toes, but also save hearts and minds and just helping them, but there’s so much reward from it.”

The ribbon-cutting event will celebrate the new center and will include speakers as well as students exploring the educational products and curriculum.

The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation helps to strengthen Americas most underserved and distressed communities by supporting and advocating for children, building Youth Development Parks and STEM Centers, partnering with law enforcement and youth-service agencies, and addressing community needs through its national program initiatives. By 2024, the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation will have installed 134 STEM Centers in elementary schools across 22 counties in Texas and New Mexico.
R4Creating’s mission is to provide support for those organizations making valuable contributions to increase the number of STEM/STEAM opportunities for students. While its nonprofit status was only established in 2016, organization volunteers have been supporting STEM in thecommunity and across the country since 2005.  At that time, R4Robotics, a community-based robotics team of approximately 40 students ages 10-18, was founded. Since that day, R4 has engaged youth in building their STEM knowledge through competitions, leadership opportunities and entrepreneurial endeavors.
The Encantado Foundation was formed to provide comprehensive enterprise and mission-embedded IT support for Sandia National Laboratories personnel and the lab’s infrastructure at multiple locations across the United States.